I was wondering if it’s possible to prove that impersonal aspect of Kṛṣṇa exists. Actually, it should be no-brainer but it isn’t, I haven’t seen anyone done it successfully, or rather any atheists accepting the result. Maybe it’s because it has hardly been tried on a large scale.
By “proof” I mean empirical proof, the one that atheists put so much value on. Something they can do without building up faith, which is a whole different matter. In my experience, most people don’t see the difference and those who do don’t go around educating people. I mean the difference between bhakti, which doesn’t exist without faith, and other Hindu schools that can get by without faith just fine. For ordinary folks it’s all lumped under “religion”.
I assume that atheists don’t want to worship God in any shape or form, can’t stand the idea of God, won’t discuss the possibility unless there’s empiric proof. Empiric proof of Kṛṣṇa’s existence, however, is impossible. He can appear before our material senses, no problem, but it wouldn’t become proof because perceiving “God” is a matter of relationship, which does not exist in atheist hearts. They don’t have premāñjana, salve of love, which is necessary to see God. The way they cast their glance on objects of their perception is opposite to how we should look at God, so they won’t see Him, they would only see a material form and nothing else. Therefore any appeals to God or God’s authority should be excluded from the conversation.
First question – why bother? If we don’t talk about God then what’s the point of talking at all? Just to please ourselves with our own brilliance? Score some easy victories over atheists? Win some hard battles that we can remember forever? Life is short to waste it on such selfish pursuits, we need every minute, every second, and every breath to work on developing bhakti, the day will definitely come when we’ll regret all the wasted time.
The operative answer is that realizing impersonal aspect of the Absolute is a great achievement in itself and a necessary step towards being attracted to God. Or I could recall that dreaded compassion – impersonal realization equals liberation, if we bring people to it they’d be very very grateful. Perhaps the best effect, however, would be that all those atheists would shut up and realize they are talking nonsense.
Their propaganda is very widespread and very powerful. They are naturally smug about themselves and, like it or not, the aura of success attracts people like nothing else. Basically, they challenge religions not so much by arguments but by demonstrating how good atheism makes them feel. Arguments come and go, most don’t keep them in their heads, but everyone wants the taste of the same smug superiority and, as people’s intelligence is generally very weak in Kali Yuga, taste always wins.
If we accept that this is where real danger lies then winning the argument won’t probably matter. Despite their bold proclamations, atheists are not rational in their beliefs, at best the arguments can somewhat undermine their self-righteousness, but that would be a great achievement already – they surely won’t be talking as much as they do now, and if they actually take to the path of impersonalism they’ll keep quiet as part of their practice, we can’t lose here. Unless we lose the argument, of course.
So, how would one go about proving impersonal aspect of the Absolute? The easiest way, as far as I can see, is to refer them to Buddhists. Śankarācārya was supposed to beat them long long time ago but from what I see his teachings have been completely discredited while Buddhism still lives on, albeit it’s getting harder and harder to find serious practitioners. I blame this on that Ramakrishna dude and his followers.
If Śankarācārya’s mission was to bewilder the people of Kali Yuga, Ramakrsihna finally made it happen. Whatever good there was in advaita philosophy has been completely expunged by Ramakrishna who left only degraded demoniac mentality and nothing else. There was impersonalism before Śankara, of course, but his is the only school that survived through time and was flourishing even when Lord Caitanya was present, but not anymore, it has been overtaken by Ramakrishna inspired impostors.
I guess it’s possible to still find true followers of Śankarāchārya but they are extremely rare and by the nature of their practice would necessarily excuse themselves from being present on the Internet, so there’s nothing there to refer our atheists to. Any other kind of Hindu spirituality would be tainted by Ramakrishnaism of some kind and we’d be forced to explain why it has to be rejected.
Yoga is another path towards realization of the Absolute that could be useful to our argument but finding a real yogi is even harder than finding a real sanyāsī, claims about yogis sound too far fetched and require about as much faith as belief in God Himself.
Situation in Buddhism is somewhat better, not because there are more Buddhists around or that modern Buddhists are more presentable than modern impersonalists but because there are less windbags in that tradition, there are less obvious frauds and, I believe, there are more success stories there.
I’m not saying that Buddhism is better than advaita but it’s a fact that there are several Buddhist countries in the world and some of them take their religion very seriously while India is overrun by secularism and worship of all things western with their inherent hedonism, and therefore does not promote necessary level of austerity to achieve success on a noticeable scale.
In Thailand, for example, it’s not unusual to walk on a body of a monk that doesn’t decay after his death, lots of temples, often no-name ones, have relics like that and even more temples have stories like that to tell. I believe they call them “arahants”, the perfect ones, the ones who have attained nirvanna and will not take another birth after leaving this body. There are difference in interpretations between various schools but for our purposes we can assume they have achieved liberation.
In Bhutan the number of monks and their austerity is astonishing, simply out of this world, and while they and other Mahayana schools might set “bodhisattvas” as their ideal, plenty among them would look like Theravadan arahants to lay people like us. A while ago I wrote several posts on a Buryat monk who is claimed to be still alive after 170 years.
Stories like that won’t surprise anyone in India but casual researcher will most likely to run into a fraud there because everyone claims superpowers there and literally no one can be trusted. I mean their best examples are running around naked at Kumba Melas, who would take them seriously? Posers, the whole lot of them.
Okay, say we find some good examples among Buddhists or elsewhere, would that be enough to convince the atheists? I was just getting to that but that should probably be left for another day. As usual, the introduction seems to take more time and space than the argument itself.
I don’t think it’s a fault, btw, I believe that most questions arise because of a lack of foundation, once we understand where we are coming from most questions somehow answer themselves or simply disappear, and therefore I do not consider it as a waste of time.